Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Forest Grows...

Summer has officially come to an end and I am back in jolly Preston ready for the final sprint of my MA. 

This is terrifying so we'll just skip over that part for now and focus on something a bit more positive... ;)

Being back in Preston means that I've regained my access to UE4 - hooray! While my Surface Pro is lovely at running Skyrim (because that's just what we all need, obviously), it's unfortunately not as confident with UE4, so I've had to lay off it (for the most) part during summer. Though I am back now (and writing this blog post as I wait for a build to finish, actually), and it feels good to see some actual progress finally being made on my forest.

Here's a look at how the process has gone so far:

Building Terrain

For my original forest felt incredibly off - there was something just not sitting right with it at all and I had great difficulty actually figuring out what that thing was. 

And then it hit me.

Forests need depth. They're not all one flat surface like my previous forest, but instead molded around the nature within it - and none of that nature is equally flat or aligned. Forests need high and low ground, broad and narrow paths, barren and cluttered areas. 

With this new breakthrough I decided it was best to scrap my original 'plan' for the forest and resculpt it. Here's a comparison:

The top image is my original 'plan' for the forest, while the second image is the revamped design. As you can see there's a pretty significant difference between the two. The first plan only had proper dips around the planned lake - other than that it was all fairly even and not very interesting.

With the new design, however, I decided to get rid of the lake and instead make paths going all the way around for players to explore. This will lead them to different clutters of characters, fairy circles, and some dark and mysterious areas. Even before adding foliage and characters, I already felt more confident about this revamp.

Adding Trees

With the terrain more or less agreed on, I then got to adding trees and some individual grass strands. While the forest will have a variety of different elements to it, the trees are by far the most prominant element of them all. It's important that by adding the trees I can make the forest feel warm and intimate - if there are too many empty, open spaces then it won't have that cosy effect that I need to create. 

As you can see in the bottom image - not all of the trees took too kindly to the terrain and looked as though they were falling. :'D So I then took the mesh into Maya and made some alterations:

Now the scene uses two tree meshes - the original, which is simply straight up, and an altered version for on slopes. Trees always grow towards the sun, so it didn't make sense to have so many of them on an angle. Sorted!

From here I'm going to continue to gradually add the rest of my meshes, as well as some sounds to go with and that kind of thing. I'll post updates as I go along, so you'll get to see the whole process. :)

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